Auchtertool Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 20760 90180, map




The earliest recorded dating of a church at Auchtertool was when in 1178 Pope Alexander III gifted the church of 'Ochtertule' to the Prior of Inchcolm.    Originally dedicated to St Columba, in 1431 it was transferred by a Papal Bull to the protection of St Peter.   The role of Inchcolm came to an end in 1560 at the height of the Reformation in Scotland.   In 1617 the lands of Auchtertool were sold to William Forbes of Craigievar who was laird of the nearby estate of Balmuto.    Carved coats of arms of Forbes are to be found externally in the east gable, and also inside the church, suggesting significant patronage of the kirk.     

The kirk has been in continuous use throughout the centuries, and has been the subject of many alterations to the building.    The building still in use today dates largely from 1833, except that during the ministry of the Revd. William Stevenson (1891-1908) the little north aisle was added.   The church itself sits on a grassy mound, some distance from the present village of Auchtertool,  surrounded by a graveyard containing many old stones,  1604 being the earliest known date for these.     There are some good examples of carved stones, including one built into the wall at the north west corner, and several large table tombs.

To the north of the kirk is a large rectangular site laid out as a cemetery in recent years.    Just outside the old graveyard is a commemorative stone, incorporating a poem (I was the Beadle's Daughter) by Maureen Sangster,  inspired by Mrs. Jean Patterson, who was the youngest daughter of the last beadle of the church, John Hamilton;   he lived with his family in the Beadle's house, built in 1897 and demolished in 1987 which stood near the kirk gate.

A large manse was built in 1812 by James Gillespie Graham, to the north west of the church site with a later extension to the north.   This was notable because it was frequently visited by Thomas Carlyle, whose wife was a relative of the minister, The Revd. William Welsh.   The house ceased to be the manse in 1969 and is now a private residence.

 Since 1991 the kirk has been united with Linktown Church in Kirkcaldy (site number: 4636).

Description (exterior)

The present church is a rectangular single cell building with twin castellated porches on the south elevation. The north aisle was designed and paid for by the Rev. William Stevenson around 1900.    On the lean to porch at the north is a date stone showing 1898, while on the aisle itself is one showing 1906.    There is a crypt under the north aisle, said to be the burying place of the Skene family, lairds of Auchtertool from 1627 to 1715. Although there were coffins reportedly surviving in 1819, there are apparently few visible remains in the crypt at the present day.

The south elevation has two projecting castellated porches with timber doors, and three pointed arch windows on the main church wall.  On the western gable there is evidence of alterations with stones obviously having been used in earlier building work.   At the western gablehead there is an octagonal corbelled bellcote built of ashlar, with an elaborate stone finial. The present bell was installed in 1887, and the old bell is on display inside the kirk.

Description (interior)

The church is entered through a porch on the south side.    The orientation is traditional with the communion table at the east end.      The walls are plastered and painted cream with white facings.    At the east end, the pulpit, communion table, and officiants' chairs are of dark polished wood, and the congregational pews are of light natural polished wood.    The organ has pipes elaborately ornamented in the Art Nouveau style ;   it was one of the gifts of the Revd. William Stevenson, who also himself carved and gave the stone font.    The old church bell is on display as are certain memorials and certificates.    Many of the windows are family memorials, and on the south side of the church there is a fine stained glass memorial window to the fallen of the first world war.   

People / Organisations:

Saint ColumbaDedicatee1178-1421
Saint PeterDedicatee1421-NOWSaints Day: June 29.
Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenomination1178-1560
Church of ScotlandDenomination1560-NOW


  • Church: Founded (1178)
    This is the earliest date associated with a church on this site.
  • Church: Build/construction (16m0)
    The Skene family crypt may date from the mid-seventeenth century.
  • House: Build/construction (1812)
  • Church: Build/construction (1833)
    Church rebuilt.
  • House: Addition (1900)
    Northern extension.
  • Church: Addition (1906)
    North aisle built.
  • Church: Build/construction (1906)
    North aisle built.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 46875
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 52988
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 52977
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: MO31771
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3669
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3668
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: The church, graveyard and manse are all listed separately. See feature reports for details.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 92637
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: MO26324

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 41, 55, 79
A Guide to the History of Auchtertool Parish KirkCowie, G. S. (ed.)1996